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Designing an Effective Counter-Pressing Session

“The best moment to win the ball is immediately after your team just lost it. The opponent is still looking for orientation where to pass the ball. They will have taken his eyes off the game to make his tackle or interception and expended energy. Both make them vulnerable.” – Jurgen Klopp

Below is a training session that I designed when I presented at the Iowa Soccer Symposium in 2019. I have written about counter-pressing in the MSC Pressing and 433 books and there are a number of opportunities that it can present to teams if it is carried our effectively.

Here are some advantages:

· It prevents opponents counter attacking opportunities.

· Your opponent is most vulnerable when their defensive organization is not established. By winning the ball back, the opposition is still in their attacking shape and that usually means plenty of spaces available to exploit.

· The opposition have just expended energy in their defensive efforts to win the ball, and therefore may be looking to recover physically with the ball in possession. They may not want, or have the capacity for, another intense action.

· You can provide more defensive stability higher up the field if you can press immediately. If teams attempt to drop and retreat, they become reactive to the opposition and invite more players on the opposition to join the attack.

· You gain possession of the ball higher up the field, with the possibility of creating a goal-scoring opportunity immediately.

· Today’s players are fitter than they have ever been and have the physical ability to press harder and longer than they have ever done before.

However, it is very much a high-risk strategy. If your players are not physically equipped or mentally to read and react at the right times, the opposition can play out and exploit numerical advantages in key areas of the field. Also, if one player does not commit to the work, the entire structure collapses. It needs eleven players to work, including a goalkeeper who can make correct decisions and is comfortable playing high up the field.

Below is the full session with some clips from games about the pictures that I would try and re-create.

If you would like to read more about session design, we have a full chapter on Counter-Pressing on Modern Soccer Coach Pressing and Coaching Your 4-3-3 books. Please go to our shop and check them out. Coaches can get 40% off by using the code MSCSPECIAL at checkout. Thank you!

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